What is a gas fireplace like?

cateyanneOctober 18, 2006

Hi! I grew up in a house with a huge fireplace that burned wood logs. I have since lived in homes that have had wood burning fireplaces. I have now purchased my own home and there is no fireplace and I am wanting one but don't have the budget for that and am not sure I could give up the space a regular fireplace would need. I have seen these smaller gas inserts with fireplace mantels in Lowe's etc. they also have electric(but I don't think that would be good)I was wondering how do the gas ones compare to the original wood type? Do they have a gas smell? And these all said ventless, which my husband thinks means we could easily place one on the wall of our living room. Will we be disapointed? How complicated is it for a regular person to do this? The guy at Lowe's acted like it was no big deal because you don't need a vent. Does anyone have experience or an opinion? Can I just buy the ine I want and set itup and light it? What about BTU's?

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I would never put a ventless fireplace in my home. They produce LOTS of water vapor from combusting a hydrocarbon fuel. The water vapor can create all sorts of problems, not the least of which is condensation and mold within the wall/insulation cavities. They also produce a LOT of carbon dioxide and if the burner is out of adjustment this can become carbon monoxide, a lethal killer within a home. I would never put a ventless fireplace in my home.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 9:55AM
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I have saw a ventless stove once and the owner also said the moisture was a problem. You should look at a direct vent type instead.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 6:00PM
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Thses are very common but don't buy it from Lowes unless it's a desa product. ventless is OK, I like them very much in fact. You can put it anywhere except a bedroom/bathroom that a gas line can be ran to. They do not smell like gas but you will know it's running cause it will different than what you're used to and yes it will add moisture to the air. You may need to provide make-up air for it if your house is really tight. The alternative is a b-vented unit which has limits or a Direct Vent unit which has limits also as to where they can be installed( because of the vent systems). Overall Direct Vent units across the board are the best cause they get combustion air from outside and vent outside. They are more expensive than ventless or b-vented.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 8:29PM
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Why can the ventless not be installed in a bedroom suite?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 7:32PM
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Because it is dangerous and potentially fatal.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 11:19PM
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But why is it not dangerous and potentially fatal anywhere else in the house, only in the bedroom?

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 12:12AM
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I am so shocked at the warnings not to have these things put into the home. We did have a ventless gas wall unit in one of the homes I lived in. It was in a familyroom that had been converted from a garage space so I suppose that was their way to provide heat. It was nice though. I don't remember it having a smell particularily but I don't remember any excess moisure either. Why do they add moisture to the air? And is't added moisure in the winter a good thing? Is it moisture other than in the air that is causing problems? What are the direct vent types like? I have a brick house, would I have to cut a whole in the brick to provide a vent? You say they are more expensive, Can you give me an approximate difference. Although none of the information that comes with the ventless gas heaters says anything about not putting them in a bedroom, is this some hidden danger that we are not being told about? I have noticed that Home Depot only carries the electric ones and wondered why, is this their way of avoiding a potential liability problem? Please, anybody who has a ventless heating unit as a fireplace or otherwise post here and tell about your experience. I really would like to hear from more people, these things are being sold everywhere and they are relatively inexpensive, I am sure there are alot of people who are contemplating these and more information from the people who actually have them or those who know something about them is needed. It would be really helpful and if they are not safe you could save people alot of trouble and heartache, please post.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 9:22AM
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I understand your confusion because after I posted my question I then did a search on ventless on this site.
But I can tell you about my experience.
When we sold our house, we sized down to a new spec house while our dream house is being built. We have a gas ventless fireplace in the family room because that is what came with the house. We moved in here a year ago exactly (last Halloween). I burned my fireplace almost every cold day last year. I loved it because all I had to do was turn it on and off! Yes I do notice an odor when it is on, but I also have the same odor when my gas oven is on. I do have a carbon monoxide detector plugged in across the room. So I guess what I am saying is after one winter we are still alive and in relatively good health. As a matter of fact I was wondering on this cold rainy day if it was cold enough to turn the thing on!

My question is why can't I put one in my master bedroom in the house we are building. I will have a wood burning insert in the family room, but no way to vent in my master unless I come out of the ceiling in the front of my house.
My master suite is bigger than the spec house family room that has the ventless fireplace. My bedroom is 20 X 20 with a sitting room that is 13 X 9 and an office that is 10 X 13, not to mention an oversized bathroom and closets.
My master suite is one whole side of the house. I don't understand.
Also if this thing is so dangerous why is it in every new spec house that I looked at last fall when I was looking for a house????

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 4:26PM
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Ventless and vented units have to be sized according to room size that will provide make-up air. Whilke most bedrooms are large enough, the states that allow ventless limit them to 10,000 BTU's, fear is that the room being shut up all night could lead to problems. Bathrooms of any size are limited to 6,000 BTU's, all other rooms are limited based on cubic footage of the room, and ventless units are not allowed as primary heat sources anymore either(they were for a year or so). The moisture is a product of combustion, propane is C(2)H(3) I think, I think 10 gallons of propane will creat 1 gallon of water( don't quote me on that) I don't use that figure much. Concern is that the moisture could cause mold inside walls and such I guess. I have a ventless fireplace, I installed it on purpose in my new house cause I love them. I would not reccomend ventless for everday/all day use per say but it's a great supplement/back-up/emergency heat source and is 99.9% efficient. I don't know all the findings, I don't care to know really. DV units are say 3-5 times the price of ventless, and trully are the best type of heater cause they get make-up/combustion air from outside the home. Lots of people say ventless will use up all the oxygen in a room, well so will B-vented only faster because of the higher BTU ratings, every gas appliance that gets air from indoors has to be sized to the room or air requirements met in another way, vented units will alos cause CO poisioning faster because they are not designed to clean burn per say and the higher btu ratings, if the combustion chamber fails and they do. This is why a CO detector is so important with any fuel burning appliance. If you have bad allergies/ health problems ventless may not be the best route...why...I don't know honestly. I will say that in ventless heaters I reccomend Rinnia across the board, ventless logs I reccomend Heat Master and Rasmussen across the board. I consider myself a fuel-piping expert pretty much, but not a ventless technology expert. I knoe they work, I know the heat great, I know lots of people who have them, and I know no one who has problems because of one.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 6:11PM
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That definitely makes sense. And I have heard about the 10,000 BTU's in the bedroom. But my inspector said he did not care what I put in there as long as it has proper clearance. If it passes inspection how will anyone else know?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 6:41PM
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honestly, 10,000 btu's is enough in a bedroom, but I doubt you can find a fireplace unit that unit, heater for sure you can.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 10:17PM
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Thanks so much jcal, You gave alot of information and cleared up alot of my questions. Do you know whether the moisture problems are detectable? Or is this something the homeowner finds out is happenng inside their walls after all the damage? Excessive moisure on interior walls or window condensation? This may sound like a dumb question but how does one "provide make-up air for it if my house is really tight?" My living room is small 12x18 and opens up to a hallway(leading to bedrooms) and a kitchen and the front foyer and entrance. I was actually thinking about a corner unit because space is limited. The brands you mentioned, are they readily available? Thanks again.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2006 at 10:28AM
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Make-up air provisions are defined in the code book and are determined by btu input. One or two air inlets will need to be cut-in somewhere to provide the required air. You'll want a certified installer to install the fireplace and they should know how to determine this by the code book. the general rule is 20 btu's of unvented input per cubic ft. of room area including every room that is not separated by a door, but this does not apply to tight homes, the same code used to determine make-up air requirments for all gas appliances using indoor air will be used here. You'll have to check local suppliers for brands available but these are well known brands. The moisture will show up on windows but it's not like your house will be a humid swamp. If you don't provide make-up air then crack a window when you use the unvented unit to keep fresh air coming in. You can find lots of information on the net about unvented heaters, some will scare you, you really have to decide for yourself. I like them, as I said earlier for supplement and back-up heat that won't be used every day for long periods, thats how I use mine. If you're overly sensitive you may want to visit a showroom with working ventless units to see what you think, some people don't like them at all cause some people are more sensitive you know?

    Bookmark   October 27, 2006 at 8:14PM
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I inherited 2 ventless propane gasfires with my current house and thought nothing of it initially as i liked the realistic appearance of the flames. After a while I noticed that the propane gas would smell very badly from time to time and we would have sore throats. The windows were covered with a greasy black film and ditto the paint work. The last straw was when my newish light color carpet developed black stains along the baseboards. These have been impossible to remove.
I have had vented propane gas fires installed after thoroughly cleaning the house. Please research carefully before installing ventless fires for the sake of your health and fabric of the house.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2006 at 7:16PM
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This is why I am a big fan of heatmaster log units. What you had was soot...i.e. incomplete or altered burn. This is something that dosen't happen with heatmaster units. Many vented log sets are notorios for sooting, poorly designed, as well as some unvented units.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2006 at 9:07PM
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We have a two sided vent less set of logs in our main floor of our house. One side faces the living room/kitchen/dining area which is open to a 18x34 space, the other side faces the master suite which is 22x17. They are controlled by thermostat on the opposite wall from their location, 18 feet away.

We also have a freestanding vent less gas fireplace in our finished basement. The set downstairs is never on unless we are the kids are down there. When one walks into the basement there is the smell of propane case. You know the rotten egg smell they put in the gas to help detect leaks. I have asked three distributors if I had a leak and they all tell me there is no way I have a leak as if I did I would have a bigger problem than a smell.

Also, we are entering our 3rd winter in our home and now my wife is having eye problems since the logs upstairs have been turned on. I am leaning towards the possibility both sets need a thorough cleaning of the burners, i.e. dust buildup. Any other opinions??

    Bookmark   December 3, 2006 at 9:47AM
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You get what you pay for. We had a set of ven-free Martin propane logs which didn't have an odor. When NG came through the hood, we bought a set of vent-free Comfort Glow NG logs. The kerosene like odor was unbearable. This was not a "new burning off" odor. It was the smell of burned gas. Those were returned and we bought a set of vent-free Martin NG logs ($200 more than the Comfort Glow). There is hardly any odor at all. And they look more realistic.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2006 at 9:46AM
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whenever i run my ventless gas fireplace i get dampness on my ceiling but just on the edge. and only on the ceilings of outside walls in 2 of my rooms. the weird thing is it isnt in the room where the fireplace is.. my house is a split and it is in the rooms on the next level up. there is a crawl space above those rooms..any ideas why this is happening and how to prevent it??

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 9:57PM
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We have had a Monessen Hearth ventless gas log set for over 2 years with no problems (moisture or otherwise) at all. No odor, etc. We have our home checked for Carbon Monoxide each year and also have monitors just in case. Never any detected. I think you need to buy a quality set. Our dealer did tell us that if we do have moisture, (condensation on the windows, etc.), we would need to crack a window open a tiny bit. I love my gas fireplace.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2007 at 7:46PM
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I would never install a ventless system in my home. Burning feul in an enclosed space in which I'm breathing and sleeping is just crazy to me. Even low levels of carbon monoxide and other by-products of burning organic feuls (i.e. gas) are unhealthy and are considered air pollution. Why would anyone purposely pump polluted air into thier insulated/sealed home? It's easy to vent and well worth the extra few bucks to install.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 2:09AM
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Gas FPs are very convenient, look pleasant, and are clean. Other than that, I think they are a waste of money. For one thing, the direct-vent types are incredibly inefficient as a heat source and the vent-less types have potential problems that have been discussed here (moisture, gas smell, elevated CO concentrations). I have had both types and would not want either one in any future home.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 3:42PM
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Have had vented natural gas fireplaces but now live in house with ventless propane and the smell is terrible smells like burning candles and whole house stinks in about 10 min or less. Is this simply how propane ventless logs smell or is there something else going on??

    Bookmark   November 3, 2007 at 1:06PM
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Unvented gas log sets come with a list of safety rules typically about as long as your arm, which no one I know has ever read, understood and followed. In theory, I suppose, if they were understood and followed, such equipment could be used safely. Since no one ever does that, they are Death waiting for a chance to strike.

One of the typical warnings is that if you notice any unsual odors or sooting, to turn the equipment off until it has been inspected and repaired by a competent repairman.

If propane is burned improperly, it can create various kinds of odors along with soot and carbonmonoxide. So an odor is a warning of a possible hazard. So leave the fireplace turned off until it's been inspected.

And as a now retired fireplace repairman, my recommendation is to install a vented gas fireplace to replace what you have. You have already exposed your family to hazards by operating it improperly, and that risk is real.

As a rule of thumb, I figure that unvented fireplace are 100 times as likely to kill users as is vented equipment. Actually, probably higher than that.

It's not worth the risk, in my view. If you don't want to install vented equipment just leave it turned off.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 7:09PM
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Boy do I have questions for everyone. I've been thinking about turning the fireplace into a either vented or ventless propane fireplace. Our neighborhood does not have lp (gas) so that is why I would have to purchase a 100 gallon propane tank.

Having said that both options scare the heck out of me!! The fireplace is on the outside wall. It is not a metal insert, but rather brick. There is an sootshoot out the bottom to the outside. I thought the propane line would just be able to go into the house that way.

So now, I need help in thinking this thing through. We really love our fireplace, the warmth, etc. A cord of wood around here is running $250 - $325.00 per cord. We do burn it - I sometimes burn it all day long as I'm home and simply like to do so. This is not our heat source for the house.

Any idea's as to what I need to do? Keep the "real" wood burning fireplace as is? Go for the propane vent gas logs? Or the ventless (which frankly scares me)? Or in reading the Overall direct Vent which I've only just read about here?

This is almost too much to figure out for me, help! Thanks all.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2007 at 2:40PM
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I have had wood burning fireplaces and stoves my whole life. They are cozy, warm, romantic, and beautiful! They are also difficult to maintain, expensive to supply with wood, back-braking labor intensive to prepare the wood, saw it, split it, haul it, stack it...etc. They take up huge amount of space in the house cause of all the clearances and safety issues...And unless you are good with the chimney maintenence they can be dangerous and cause house fires and smoke damage, as well as you WILL occasionally burn yourself or guests.
The best most efficient wood burning heaters are those original Ben Franklin cast iron stoves like I have now. Those things are great, but again...pia.
I have made the decision that I am "over it" as far as wood burning is concerned and am installing a direct-vent propane gas fireplace for convenience, safety, looks, cost, and practically no maintenence. When it comes to heating the house, there are far-far more efficient ways to do that such as heat pumps and geothermal and such; not to mention such modern innovations like "insulation" :) Bare in mind I am mountain-country folk, born and inbred! I dont take to newfangled anything much!
I bought a VermontCastings gas fireplace box and am framing up the wall this weekend for it. I will post later on my experience with this.
The link shows the before/after I have in mind. Pardon the mess, its not everyday you remove entire walls!

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 10:16AM
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